Not Another 5K Run: Creative Fundraiser Ideas For NPOs

Tricia Goss / NPO Leave a Comment

When driving through town, watching the local news or scrolling through social media, there is a good chance you will read or hear about yet another 5K, marathon, or fun run to raise money for a good cause.

Benefit races certainly have their merits. They are social events that encourage new donors who enjoy the physical aspect as well as the chance to be altruistic. In areas with year-round mild weather, they can be great go-to fundraisers no matter the season. Races can encourage peer-to-peer fundraising, as well.

However, when it seems like there is a run of some sort every month (or week!) in your area, tossing your NPO’s hat in the ring can seem less than appealing.

The good news is there are countless other ways to campaign for donations that have nothing to do with running, walking, or crawling through mud.

A fundraiser can be much more than a one-time opportunity to garner resources for your agency or organization. When done well, it can be an effective way to find, attract, and engage with your ideal demographic, leading to an ongoing, meaningful relationship between you and your donor base. The following list of ideas might be the inspiration you need.

Make It Real

A display of colorful handmade quiltsEverybody wants to help a worthy cause, but when potential donors or volunteers can truly picture how their support can make a difference, they become emotionally invested. Brainstorm ideas that can evoke images to tug at the heartstrings of participants.

For example, one nonprofit foster care and adoption agency hosts an annual auction. At the beginning of the event, they auction off individual quilts handmade by volunteers. A longstanding donor always places a high bid on the first quilt (somewhere in the ballpark of $500). After winning the bid, the donor announces that he would like to donate the quilt back to the agency for a foster child to have.

Without fail, every single quilt earns the same amount, and all are donated to kids in foster care, eliciting donations as well as an emotional tie to the agency and its work.

Related content: 9 Trends In NPO Marketing For 2018

Crowdsource A Project

Forgo raising funds for general expenses and ask the community to back a specific wish list item. Create an online campaign that clearly explains your need or desired result as well as the total goal as well as the amount you have raised to date.

For instance, The Boys & Girls Club in Harlem recently ran a crowdfunding campaign. They wanted to raise enough to take 300 kids to see Marvel’s film “Black Panther,” seeing it as “a rare opportunity for young students (primarily of color) to see a black major cinematic and comic book character come to life.”

The campaign went viral, prompting similar campaigns all over the world. In addition, the organization acquired enough funding to launch a new program.

Fill-In-The-Blank Drive

Think about a tangible need that your NPO would like to fulfill and then ask the community for specific help reaching this goal. This could be anything from socks for homeless adults, to pet food for an animal shelter, to school supplies for kids whose families cannot afford them.

Cats sleeping in window next to a sign asking for donations for abandoned cats

Partner with a local retailer that sells what your organization needs. Donors can purchase wish list items and drop them in the designated collection spot, making it even easier for them to support your cause.

Showcase Your Cause

Make an event out of something that highlights the work your NPO does so well. For instance, if you have a thrift store, host a fashion show or auction displaying or selling donated items.

Another option might be to hold a gallery event exhibiting photos of shelter animals or artwork created by clients you serve. You could even have walk-throughs of homes you have built or some major project you have completed.

Direct Interaction

A cup of cocoa with multi-color marshmallowsDepending on the type of work your organization does, this could be an engaging and impactful way to reach new donors. For example, an animal shelter could host a paid event with a puppy play area, kitty cuddles and a doggy kissing booth.

Another idea would be to host a cozy get-together at your facility with comfort foods, hot cocoa and some form of entertainment (such as a children’s choir, a slideshow presenting the agency’s work or simply a movie on a large screen). Ask guests to donate what they would have spent for a night on the town.

Community Builder

Build your reputation as an integral part of the community, connect with local donors and raise money at the same time by asking people to participate in a fundraiser during which they donate items, effort or simply their time.

Some ideas might include a community yard sale, bake sale or car wash from which all or a portion of proceeds benefit your organization.

Competition For The Less Athletic

Benefit from competitive human nature with an event that doesn’t require the same level of physical endurance as a marathon or 5k. This could be virtually any type of competition, but here are a few fun ideas:

  • Kickball tournament
  • Poker tournament
  • Trivia night
  • Bowl-a-Thon
  • Retro video game night
  • Casino night

Fun For Foodies

Enjoyable edible items can be a wildly popular fundraiser (just ask the Girl Scouts!). With your target demographic in mind, plan a food-related event that will give you the biggest bang for your buck.

Couple relaxing at an outdoor barbecue party

It could be as trendy as a pop-up dinner hosted by a popular local chef or a food truck roundup; as downhome and comforting as pig roast or a chili cook-off; or as old school as a pancake breakfast or spaghetti dinner.

Give And Receive

Give donors the opportunity to purchase a small ticket item or to win a big-ticket item with their donations. Some popular products you can sell that will continue to remind donors about your organization include custom photo calendars, t-shirts and coffee mugs water bottles.

Alternatively, you can raise money selling chances to win a desirable prize. There are numerous ways to carry this out, including raffle tickets for a desirable donated item; a 50/50 raffle in which the winner of the drawing gets half the pot raised and your organization gets the other half; or a photo or essay contest with an entry fee, a portion of which goes to the winning entry.

Related content: Examples And Takeaways Of Great NPO Marketing On A Budget

Click Campaign

Make it so easy for people to support your fundraiser that they (quite literally) barely have to lift a finger. Set up a text-to-donate campaign, which allows donors to give by texting a keyword you establish to a five-digit number.

Establish a Facebook fundraiser that allows you to collect donations with just a few clicks or taps. Make sure to promote your campaigns across social media platforms and ask your supporters to share with their own networks of family and friends.

Think about your target demographic. Consider their interests, hobbies, and habits. Then, meet them where they are with a fundraiser that not only encourages them to donate but also inspires them to become actively committed to supporting your cause.

For more ideas on how to market your NPO, check out Marketing Tips For NPOs From 22 Pros.

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